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Sloan Foundation grant to help U. of I. improve STEM minority representation

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is one of three institutions awarded a grant by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's expanded Minority Ph.D. Program to support underrepresented minority postdoctoral students in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

The competitive three-year, $3 million Sloan Foundation initiative, announced March 24, asks each institution to create a Center of Exemplary Mentoring, a campuswide center that would provide scholarships to minority doctoral students in the physical and mathematical sciences, and engineering. With the expansion, the Sloan Foundation will have eight centers nationally.

The Illinois center will coordinate a host of activities designed to help students succeed in their graduate studies and careers, including an extensive orientation program for new students, research opportunities, workshops and seminars, professional development, scholarships and stipends, and a three-tiered mentoring program that provides peer, academic and research mentors to students.

The center's goal will be to double the number of applications, offers and enrollments of underrepresented students in STEM fields, and it will comprise 12 departments from the College of Engineering and six from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The grant application was submitted by the Office of the Provost and the Graduate College.

“Increasing the diversity of graduate education in the sciences, mathematics and engineering means getting talented minority candidates into quality Ph.D. programs and helping them succeed once they get there,” said Elizabeth S. Boylan, the director of the STEM Higher Education program at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “(The Centers of Exemplary Mentoring) are designed to support graduate students at every point in the graduate study pipeline."

In addition to Sloan Foundation funds, the universities have made substantial cost-sharing commitments in the form of direct support to students, program activities, and the personnel costs of running the program. Combining Sloan Foundation and university funds, selected graduate students will receive tuition, a stipend and professional development support through the new UCEMs over the next three years. 

"The Sloan partnership will help us leverage the numerous existing resources the U. of I. devotes to supporting minority doctoral students," said Sarah Lubienski, the interim dean of the Graduate College. "We also will draw from the expertise within our departments on campus, as well as in the Sloan network of member institutions."

Boylan said the U. of I. was chosen for its already proven commitment to minority Ph.D. students in the sciences and engineering, its efforts to expand that support and its comprehensive assessment of doctoral students' experiences and outcome.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, San Diego, are the other two institutions included in the Sloan Foundation initiative.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a philanthropic, not-for-profit grantmaking institution based in New York City. For more information go to


Reposted from the Illinois News Bureau - 3/24/2015